Pushing the graphics pedal to the metal

It’s hard to get into a conversation about mobile racing games in 2013 without someone mentioning Creative Mobile’s Drag Racing, the quintessential racing experience on a touchscreen device over the last several years. But as mobile game developers continue to up the ante with their games by using more realistic looking graphics and higher-powered gameplay, many fans are interested to see where Creative Mobile will go next with their inevitable follow-up game.

Well today we’re bringing you the answer in Nitro Nation Online, a game that takes everything you know and love about Drag Racing and really pushes down that gas pedal to deliver on the graphics and the gameplay. I recently had a chance to chat with Creative Mobile CEO Vladimir Funtikov, and talk about what kinds of things Drag Racing fans can expect to find in Nitro Nation Online, as well as how the development team used everything they’ve learned to create what Funtikov calls an “ultimate version of Drag Racing,” and what it all means for like-minded racing games in the future.

Nitro Nation Online

After speaking one-on-one with Funtikov, essentially what it all boiled down to was three main components built into the core of the new game that are aimed to set the experience far and above what was initially possible in the original Drag Racing. The first new component to be introduced in Nitro Nation Online is a completely reworked and revamped physics engine, which is both adapted to the mobile platform and used to exude an incredibly realistic feeling with regards to how the cars are expected to handle and control in the game.

Ironically, this need for an updated physics engine actually came about from Drag Racing players who were able to exploit various small flaws in the mechanics of the game: effectively allowing them to do things that weren’t realistic or even true to what racers can do in real life. Funtikov makes it a point to note that these will all be subtle differences, like the way in which the cars behave or how the weight shifts from side to side in the vehicles, but that people will definitely be able to feel them once they actually sit down and play.

Following this, another big emphasis in Nitro Nation Online is in the game’s vast new customization components, which the development team heavily invested in this time around. The most notable new addition here is that players will now be able to add decals to the outside of their cars, as well as determine the overall decal placement by moving and rotating them across 10 different layers of design space: a large step up from the customization efforts previously seen in Drag Racing.

Nitro Nation Online

According to Funtikov, the extensive new customization options will enable Nitro Nation Online to achieve a greater sense of fandom from its players that was never seen before in any of the developer’s past games. And of course, let’s not forget the insanely upgraded visuals this time around, which coat the perfected drag racing gameplay in a realistic 3D shine that is sure to please Creative Mobile’s legions of fans.

Finally, Nitro Nation Online is also set to feature a deeper multiplayer experience than what was previously seen in Drag Racing. Players had suggested to Funtikov that they wanted in-game teams and a means of Facebook connectivity, and so the upcoming release will feature a more fine-tuned sense of multiplayer teamwork that is built around forming racing teams and competing with one another across the dedicated online servers.

One area that was particularly commendable about the original make-up of Drag Racing was the game’s “non-aggressive” approach to monetization, which I am happy to say, will be used again in a similar fashion here in Nitro Nation Online as well. There will reportedly be less in-game advertisements, and players will have the option of buying cool bonus content or customization items that they might want, but don’t entirely need: such as a special tool that lets you fine-tune your car to reach a certain RPM.

Nitro Nation Online

The team at Creative Mobile has been ironing out the bugs through a closed beta period of the game released exclusively on Android devices, and Funtikov was refreshingly candid in telling me that the overall player response so far to the beta of Nitro Nation Online has been rather mixed: although this likely stems from the limited number of players who were given early access to the game so far, and because some of the larger features have been excluded from the current beta version of the game.

But what of the vast community of players that Drag Racing has managed to amass? What happens to them once Nitro Nation Online is finally released? Well even though Funtikov and the rest of his team at Creative Mobile fully expect a lot of the Drag Racing players to switch on over to the new game after its launch, they still plan to fully support the original game after this point, with updates to both Drag Racing and Nitro Nation Online happening simultaneously.

Nitro Nation Online

As far as future post-launch updates to the new game are concerned, Funtikov tells me that one area Creative Mobile is currently experimenting with is letting team members build their own cars together, in more of a team-based or community-wide action. But of course, we’ll just have to wait and see what ultimately makes the final cut once Nitro Nation Online speeds to an iOS or Android device near you. And while there’s no firm release date in sight for the game just yet, Funtikov says that December could be an early possibility.

The original Drag Racing game was developed by a small development team of 5 people, and now with Creative Mobile approaching a staff of 100, Nitro Nation Online is easily their biggest project to date. Funtikov attests his hopes that “Everyone interested in cars will love it,” and given his team’s own love of cars and racing games, that Nitro Nation Online was most certainly a “dream project to work on.” Something tells me it will also be a dream project to play for us racing fans as well.